Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters plan to build on the success of his election campaign. But they face challenges inside the party as well as outside.
More than 180,000 people have joined Labour since Corbyn won the leadership election in September.
Many had never been in a political party before. Others are people who had left Labour in the past and decided to rejoin.
Gill Kennard is an independent councillor in Hull. She was a Labour councillor until she left the party last year, having been suspended for refusing to vote through cuts.
Gill told Socialist Worker, “I’m so pleased that Jeremy Corbyn has been elected Labour leader.
“The man is saying everything that we are saying. I want to put my energy behind Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, and I’ve applied to rejoin the Labour Party.”
That tension is also apparent in Constituency Labour Party (CLP) meetings.
Amarjite Singh is CWU union South Wales Amalgamated branch secretary. He told Socialist Worker, “The party now has a grassroots again. Many CLP meetings have been big because of new members.
“I think most CLPs have been welcoming, but some have been more negative because the new members support Jeremy.
“Those in the party who wanted to take us to the right are bitter, but not everyone can win in politics.”
Lambeth council in south London is out to close half the libraries in the borough. But local campaigns say it’s vital to keep them open—and new Labour members agree.
Tim O’Dell, the Unison union shop steward for libraries in Lambeth, was invited to a local meeting. He described the clash between the councillors and the new members.
He said, “It became very clear that the Labour Party is not in sync with the people who joined because of Jeremy Corbyn.”
The meeting managed to pass a motion opposing the closures—but not without opposition. With billions more council cuts to come across Britain, this faultline will only deepen.
Some Corbyn supporters have set up a group called Momentum, which aims to build on the strengths of his election campaign.
It has organised a day of action to sign people up to the electoral register on Saturday of this week.
Gill has joined Momentum in Hull. She said, “I like to think it will give people confidence to speak and help support people. But it will be what we make it.
“People can use it as a tool to enable people, and to help people understand what socialism is.
“It doesn’t want to be just a talking shop where people just go on and on. It can be practical and get the socialist voice out there.”
Unity, but not with the left
Momentum has come under attack from some on the right.
Labour MP Mary Creagh said the group could lead to purges and “factionalism and infighting”. Former home secretary David Blunkett warned it not to be a “party within a party”.
Tensions inside Labour mean there is always infighting.
The right has groups such as Progress and Labour First. But Momentum is accused of opening up Labour to “infiltration” by socialists.
Momentum’s website says it will “work with everyone who supports Jeremy’s aim of creating a more fair, equal and democratic society”.
Some right wingers used Socialist Worker’s article calling on socialists to support Momentum to claim that the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) was trying to enter Labour.
The SWP said members should openly go to Momentum meetings and propose joint activity.
Socialist Worker does not think people should join Labour. But the SWP has always worked alongside Labour members in many campaigns and trade unions.
Corbyn supporters are under pressure to maintain unity with right wingers.
So instead of defending Momentum, spokespeople said they are unwilling to work with other socialist groups.
The accusations were an attempt to smear those in Labour who genuinely want to build a broad-based movement.